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Yesterday I had a conversation with the FD about budgets. It started a little like this.

FD – we need to cut your mobilisation budget by 30%
Me – ok what’s that based on
FD – when when we mobilised x contract in 2006 we only spent x squillion so your budget is far too high I’m going to slash roles.
Me – I’m not sure that taking heads out of the team will give us the right result. Let’s look at the employment model, how about FTCs rather than day rate interims that will help. Also all that consultancy spend you out in perhaps we could resource that a different way.
FD – but heads will have to go the teams too big
Me- so is this about money or numbers of people
FD- errr…errrmmm well both. Oh and the uniforms are too expensive.

With that he walked away saying I just wanted to give you the heads up that the budgets going to be cut.

We are in a large open plan office & itwasn’t a discussion I wanted to have without facts to back me up or with that size of an audience.

But the thing that did get me buzzing was the casual remark about uniforms.

Corporate workwear, when you’re buying in bulk, is relatively inexpensive compared to buying your own clothes. But as with all clothes often going cheap cheap is a false economy in more ways than the bleeding replacement cost obvious.

Uniforms can have a positive effect they can engender a sense of belonging, help with branding and assist customers to identify your staff easily. So far so good yes ?

The other side is how a uniform can make employees feel about you as employer. A cheap, synthetic, ill fitting uniform will rarely add to your employees happiness or well being. But it might add to their dissatisfaction or impact morale. A uniform that doesn’t keep you warm/dry/cool/safe will be added to from their personal wardrobes (bye bye brand/marketing benefits) will wear out and will display an image of your company that might not sit well with your values.

Now I’m not proposing Paul Smith suits and Crombie for everyone or even the level of some of the bigger spending brands (one sadly no longer existing train co used to have a £1,500 per head uniform issue cost) but I am talking about fit for purpose, good to wear, looks good and is good quality. I’m talking about something employees might feel a bit of pride wearing, that they feel we have invested in and that meets those basic warm/dry/cool/safe needs.

One of my colleagues, an ex MD, said it well: ‘I wouldn’t expect my team to wear anything I wouldn’t be happy to wear myself’

It was a small victory, I still have to find 20% overall cuts (might have pointed out that if you look at 2006 costs today they should probably be increased) but the uniform budget isn’t being slashed.

The performance, commitment & service we expect from our staff is high – I don’t want to undermine that with polyester.